On March 5, College Board President David Coleman announced comprehensive changes to the SAT, the most commonly used college admission exam. The changes, which will be implemented beginning in the spring of 2016, include an elimination of the guessing penalty, a stronger focus on more practical vocabulary and a switch to an optional essay instead of a required essay. Furthermore, the College Board will provide students with more test preparation materials.
Caelan ’18 said she likes the test’s new emphasis on practical vocabulary.
“I think that’s better than having to memorize a bunch of words that you’ll never use,” she said.
Another change to the test includes limiting the use of calculators to only certain sections of the math portion. Emily ’15 said that taking away students’ ability to use a calculator during certain math sections would hurt the College Board, who, according to Co-Director of College Counseling Monica DePriest, “has seen their market share diminish.”
“No one’s going to want to take the SAT without a calculator,” Emily explained.
According to the New York Times, in 2012, for the first time ever, more students took the ACT than the SAT.
DePriest said that the College Board is simply trying to make the SAT more like the ACT. While the ACT is based on high school curriculum and includes sections on English, math, reading, science, and an optional essay, the SAT is currently structured as more of a reasoning test that measures vocabulary skills, reading comprehension, and analytical problem-solving skills.
Notably, in the New York Times, Coleman criticized both the ACT and the SAT, saying that both had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”
The SAT has received a range of criticisms in the past. One of the main criticisms is the stark advantage given to test takers who can afford often pricey SAT preparation courses or tutors.
According to The Washington Post, data shows that high SAT scores are directly correlated with high income.
In order to help level the playing field and lessen the edge that affluent test takers have on lower income students, the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to roll out “free online practice problems and instructional videos,” according to the New York Times.
DePriest said that this step shows that the College Board is acknowledging that students who receive coaching on standardized test preparation have an advantage on the SAT.
DePriest said that while the changes seem dramatic now, it’s only a matter of time until everyone gets used to them.
“The SAT changed before, and we all thought it was a big deal. And then, it wasn’t,” she said.